CARNIVAL Panorama is rocking . . . and we have not even left port.
“Let’s get this party started,” enthuses cruise director Lee as the DJ strikes up.
Revellers at the pool show off their moves and Panorama slips gently away from California’s Long Beach, where she was docked next to the Queen Mary.
Talk about chalk and cheese. In her day, Queen Mary was the posh favourite of the well fed and nearly dead.
Panorama is king of casual for all ages.
No need here for suits and cocktail dresses.
Youngsters, too, will have a whale of a time in kids’ clubs with non-stop games and parties.
We are heading down Mexico way on a seven-night cruise to Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta.
But we could be going anywhere, really, because we are only here to eat, drink and have FUN. With a capital F.
That is fitting as Panorama is Carnival Cruise Line’s new Fun Ship — loud, lively and often quirky.
I am not sure which was stranger — the Christmas jumper contest in temperatures approaching 30C or that folk had actually brought woollies emblazoned with Rudolph.
I’d forgotten my festive gear but there was plenty to keep my fun-o-meter buzzing: A lip-sync battle, karaoke, deck parties, trivia games, quizzes, comedy shows (both PG and adult), a pianist who refused to play Billy Joel’s Piano Man and a guitarist who did.
As I said, quirky.
COVID: Fully vaccinated visitors are required to provide proof of vaccine on entry, along with a negative PCR or antigen test taken within three days before their flight departs.
Current UK rules require pre-departure test before returning to the UK and a PCR test on or before day two.
GETTING THERE: British Airways has flights from London to LA from £343return.
BOOK IT: Carnival Cruise Line has a seven-night Mexican Riviera cruise from Long Beach in California that visits Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta, from £477pp departing May 14, 2022.
Flights and transfers extra.
See carnival.com or call 0808 234 0680.
I persuade my husband to try SkyRide, a long track for bikers high above the ocean, while I head for the twisty waterslides.
Panorama holds 4,600 passengers but with Covid still around, there are many fewer folk on board.
They are fully jabbed and must also show proof of a negative test taken within two days before the sailing date.
A handful of kids and unvaccinated are allowed but must fork out 150 dollars for a test at the port and can’t go ashore alone.
Everyone is asked to wear masks indoors unless they are eating or drinking.
There are 13 other Brits among the thousands on our cruise but the only folk we meet are Americans who won’t consider cruising with anyone but Carnival.
“We don’t care where we go, we just love being with Carnival,” Dave and Elaine tell me over a drink in the atrium one evening.
The atrium bar is my favourite come nightfall, always buzzing and with fab music by violin trio New Age.
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In the daytime, I love the Red Frog Bar’s laid-back Caribbean vibe.
At the Pig And Anchor, Carnival brews Parched Pig ale and barmen top pints of Bloody Mary with bacon.
Weirder is the waxwork of American barbecue king Guy Fieri at the entrance so fans can get a selfie.
His burger joint by the pool is a hit with the Americans but I prefer Pasta Bella and Mongolian Wok, where you pick the ingredients for Italian or Asian fast food and chefs do the rest.
There are loads more places to eat.
Fancy sushi? Mexican? How about seafood, a Japanese teppanyaki or smokehouse faves like pulled port and brisket? Panorama has them all.
I try Fahrenheit 555, where the steaks and service are excellent; and JiJis, one of the best Asian restaurants on the high seas.
At 15 dollars a head, it is a bargain too.
After all that food, a trip to the gym is a must.
Boot Camp and indoor cycling are too much like hard work, so I settle for some morning stretches.
I feel virtuous — but they don’t rid me of many calories and are not my idea of fun.
I’m heading back to the party!
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